By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — A person who sells or buys a child in North Carolina and gets caught will suffer the same penalty as someone who writes a check on a closed account or drives with a revoked license. It’s a ridiculous situation that members of the Senate agreed to change Monday night with the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 910, which would make the sale, surrender or purchase of a child a Class D felony rather than a Class 1 misdemeanor.
“In June of 2011 a woman was sentenced in Chatham County for trafficking her child for sexual purposes. She had a prior conviction in the state of Texas for selling a child and for this prior conviction… it could only be counted as a misdemeanor for the purpose of aggravating any sentence here in North Carolina,” primary bill sponsor Sen. Bob Atwater (D- Chatham) explained to fellow members of the Senate.
He said the District Attorney’s office in Chatham requested the new law, which would create a felony criminal offense of unlawful sale, surrender or purchase of a child, punishable by a $10,000 fine on first offense and a prison sentence of roughly three to 13 years depending on prior convictions and other aggravating factors. In addition to prison time, subsequent offenses would involve a $50,000 fine.
The bill, which would also add the offense to North Carolina’s child abuse statute, would require that the name of a person convicted under the law be added to the state’s Sex Offender Registry.
“We’re glad to see the Senate in total agreement with this bill, which is really just the beginning of what needs to be done to address this growing problem,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Most people don’t realize that North Carolina ranks among the top 10 states for human trafficking.”
The bill initially included $25,000 to help cover the cost for increased bed capacity in the prison system and another $5,000 for the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys to help educate investigators and prosecutors and to study additional measures that could help stop human trafficking, with a report due to the General Assembly in January 2013. However, before the bill was passed, it was amended and those appropriations removed.
The bill will now go to the House. If it passes there, the education and study section would take effect July 1, with the proposed law applying to offenses committed on or after Dec. 1.
The Christian Action League has been working with legislators and victims’ services organizations to help address this issue and will continue to do so, Dr. Creech said.
To find out more about what you can do to get involved, call the CAL office at (919) 787-0606 and request a workshop for your church or community group.